Thursday, May 30, 2024

Martin denies gambling reforms will kill off ‘world class’ Irish horse racing

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The Tánaiste has said he does not believe that the Gambling Regulation Bill will kill off horse racing in Ireland. 

The bill is currently before Dáil Éireann at its fourth stage and, if passed, will ban gambling ads between 5.30am and 9pm. 

Introducing the bill last year, Minister of State James Browne said it “takes a responsible approach to balancing the freedom to gamble with the safeguards to protect people from falling prey to addiction.”

Despite this, the racing industry is concerned it could lose some €2 billion in revenue and Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing are concerned it could become unviable to broadcast in Ireland. 

The Curragh Racecourse in Kildare, 11-10-2020. Image Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

“To continue broadcasting in Ireland without bookmaker advertising would require us to invest in a separate satellite network to run a separate channel for Ireland, which would cost circa €1 million per annum,” Racecourse Media Group CEO Martin Stevenson told The Racing Post. 

“Once you factor in separate studio space, gallery, staffing, uplinks and downlinks, the cost would be in the region of €2 million per annum. 

“At that level it becomes unviable to service the Irish market.”

‘A serious public health issue’

It is not a concern Micheál Martin shares. 

“The Irish racing industry is very strong, the breeding industry is very strong – it’s world class,” he said. 

“I don’t believe the fears will be realised. 

“Gambling addiction is a serious issue in society, it’s a serious public health issue… about 130,000 are problem gamblers.” 

Minister Martin said gambling can “destroy families overnight” and the Government is determined to tackle the issue.

“People lose their houses,” he said.

“It can have very traumatic impacts on families, so the bill reflects the seriousness of the situation and the seriousness of gambling addiction.

“I believe there are ways of dealing with some of the issues that people have raised, I don’t believe the fears will be realised.”

If you are concerned you have a problem with gambling, you can contact Gambler’s Anonymous (GA) for help and support.

Main image: The Curragh Racecourse in Kildare. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

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